VW supplier to shut down Chattanooga facility, lay off 156 workers

Staff photo by Dave Flessner / The Volkswagen supply park on Volkswagen Drive next to VW's Chattanooga assembly plant houses a number of suppliers, including ThyssenKrupp. Last week, ThyssenKrupp filed a notice with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development saying it will close its Chattanooga operation by May 20, idling 156 employees.

A Volkswagen supplier is closing its Chattanooga facility and will lay off 156 workers within the next three months, according to a layoff notice the company filed with the state last week.

ThyssenKrupp LLC, an American automotive division of the German-based engineering and steel production conglomerate, filed an official Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification last Monday indicating the company will begin laying off workers in early May and permanently close its operations at 8005 Volkswagen Drive by May 20.

ThyssenKrupp officials declined to discuss its closure in Chattanooga. In an emailed statement, Konrad Böcker, head of communications for automotive technology at ThyssenKrupp, said "we cannot comment on this matter as it is an internal business affair."

Volkswagen of America also declined comment on the plant closure at the VW supplier park, which houses ThyssenKrupp among seven other suppliers and sits next to Volkswagen's Chattanooga assembly plant.

The layoff notice will trigger programs by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development to help displaced workers look for other jobs, get training for another job or file for unemployment assistance, among other services, according to the department's assistant director of business solutions, Houston Shaw.

The employees at the automotive supplier, who were not represented by a labor union, will receive assistance from the dislocated worker unit of the state's labor department. The Southeast Local Workforce Development Board will coordinate follow-up rapid response and dislocated workers services.

Michele Holt, executive director of the Southeast Tennessee Local Workforce Development Board, said her staff has reached out to ThyssenKrupp to provide information on the services available and a preliminary meeting has been scheduled this week.

"All impacted workers will receive rapid response services through the public workforce system, and if needed or desired, subsequent services through the dislocated worker programs, which can provide a wide range of support, including job placement and training if needed," Holt said in an emailed statement to the Times Free Press. "The job market in our local area is still very favorable for most sectors, particularly those in manufacturing, and a substantial percentage of ThyssenKrupp's impacted workers are likely to receive other offers prior to dislocation."

The ThyssenKrupp plant closure is one of a half dozen recent plant closures in Southeast Tennessee. Although unemployment in Hamilton, Bradley and McMinn counties has remained near historic lows in recent years, six companies have announced plans in the past year to shut down their operations. Collectively, the plant closings have cost more than 1,000 manufacturing jobs.

The biggest employment loss came at the Waupaca Foundry in McMinn County where 540 workers were laid off last spring. In one of the biggest layoffs in Tennessee in the past five years, the Waupaca Foundry shut down most of its automotive casting foundry in Etowah and idled its melt, molding and core room production.

The plant was once owned by ThyssenKrupp, which sold the Etowah foundry and other Waupaca operations in Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan to the New York-based private equity firm KP Capital Partners. The company was later sold to Hitachi Metals in 2014.

The layoffs last year in Southeast Tennessee also hit one of America's oldest suitmakers. Hardwick Clothes, which operated for 142 years, shut down last year and closed in Cleveland plant where 129 employees still worked. Hardwick was the oldest continually operating manufacturer in Bradley County.

Also in Cleveland, Beiersdorf Manufacturing LLC is in the process of shutting down and laying off 140 workers. The pharmaceutical plant company is outsourcing production of the Coppertone and other skin care products made at the plant.

In Hamilton County, the Hawker Powersource battery plant in Ooltewah shut down last August, idling 165 workers, and Sodexo Inc. closed its operation on McCallie Avenue in Chattanooga last year, cutting 74 jobs.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340.